Hello, welcome back, don’t mind the dust! So. 2020, am I right? Are you doing all right? Keeping your spirits up? It’s okay if you’re not, so long as you’re still with us. It’s rough for everyone. Here’s something a little more lighthearted for you!
Some of you may recall that during ExtraLife 2019 one of our milestones was to put out a fan fiction. Well, no one ever picked a fandom for us to fiction for, and then we kind of totally forgot about it because many, many things have happened in the following months. We started to take a look at what we should plan for ExtraLife 2020, and realized there were a couple things we forgot to do! So! Here we are!
Now, I should warn you that fan fiction is not my thing. Oh, sure, I’ve written some in my time (I’ve never met a writer who hasn’t), but I never really got into it the way a lot of writers my age and younger did. However, I had this idea. This bit of fiction is a little bit of a joke, based on a well documented bug from the Thieves Guild storyline in Skyrim, which locks the character Brynjolf into a single line of dialogue that he repeats ad nauseam. If you’ve played the game, you know what I’m talking about. And so, I would like to present:
We’ll Speak Another Time
It was a surprisingly quiet night in the Ragged Flagon. Delvin’s ear twitched as he heard the nearby scrape of wood on wood – someone was pulling a chair up to his table. He turned his head, ready with a quick dismissal, but it died as he saw who was sitting down.
“What can I do for you, Boss,” Delvin asked, closing the beaten leather journal in which he kept records of the needs of various Thieves Guild clients.
The Guildmaster settled down in the chair next to him, set two bottles of mead on the table, and pushed one towards Delvin. The Boss was like that. Considerate, downright kind at times. It used to make new recruits think she was soft. Until one of them insulted her, and she hurled him into the wall with her Voice – broke almost every bone in his arms and legs. He lived through it, but his hands were ruined for their line of work. Brynjolf set the kid up with the fishery. The recruits started to remember just who it was that ran the Guild, and were properly respectful.
“How is business, Delvin,” she asked, pushing back her hood so they could look each other in the eye. That was important to her. Delvin respected that.
“Business is good, Boss,” he said, tapping the journal. “Money’s comin’ in, and we almost can’t keep up with demand. Speakin’ of which, you want a job? Somethin’ to keep you busy?”
She took a long swig from her bottle and set it down, nodding. “Happy to, but first I need to find Brynjolf. You know where he is?”
Delvin hesitated, and looked around. It was pretty quiet in the Flagon right now, and a quick nod to Dirge would keep anyone from coming up to them for a bit. “Look, Boss, about Brynjolf. We need to talk.”
That got a raised eyebrow, and a critical look. Out of everyone in the Guild, Delvin was probably the only one who could risk this conversation without being shouted into the cistern. The Boss and Delvin had gotten on well since back when she was a recruit, back when the Guild was at their worst with that asshole Mercer. Delvin was the only one who hadn’t talked down to her, and she had respected his advice and experience. The Boss remembered all that when she became Guildmaster – Vex and Tonilla were tolerated for their skills, though the Boss had as little to do with Vex as possible, and liked to send Vex on missions as far away from Riften as she could justify. Delvin, though – it was clear to anyone that the Boss had a soft spot for Delvin.
“I know it ain’t none of my business, Boss, but you and Brynjolf have been dancin’ around each other for weeks,” Delvin began, lowering his voice a little. “He’s tryin’ so hard to avoid you that he’s forgotten how to be subtle about it. I’ve noticed. Vex noticed. Even Dirge noticed, an’ he usually don’t pay attention to nothing ‘cept who he’s gonna punch next.”
The Boss’s face was eerily neutral, and damn near impossible to read. That wasn’t surprising, she was one of their best. “I’m listening, Delvin. Where are you going with this?”
Sighing, Delvin took a drink before he kept going. “Look, Brynjolf brought you into the guild. If he wanted to be Guildmaster, he didn’t have to push you forward. So even though there’s talk that he wants to take over, I don’t buy it. He’s actin’ damn cagey, though, and it’s almost like-”
Delvin looked back up at the Boss and broke off mid-sentence. The corner of her mouth was quirking, like she was trying not to smile or laugh, and there was almost a sparkle in her eyes. Delvin furrowed his brow, then the pieces fell together and he started to grin, shaking his head. “Boss, you should know better.”
“I should,” she agreed, picking up her drink again and leaning back.
Grinning, the Guildmaster winked. “Well, I knew you would turn me down. And I work too hard for this money to spend it on whores.”
Laughter rumbled out of Delvin, startling the few people in the Flagon at this time of night and drawing a confused look from Dirge. Delvin waved Dirge off, and looked back at the shamelessly grinning Guildmaster. “Eh, ‘m a professional. And too old for ya. Brynjolf is setting up that new safehouse by the mill. Take a horse, you’ll make good time.”
The Boss tipped back her bottle, finished her mead, and stood, setting her hand on Delvin’s shoulder. “I’ll talk to him. Tell him he’s laying it on too thick. For a con man, you’d think he’d be better at this. I’m glad you brought it up, Delvin. Though if anyone asks, all you know is that Brynjolf and I had a talk. We understand each other?”
“Of course, Boss.”
“Good.” She patted his shoulder. “I’ll see you about that job when I get back. Find me some numbers work.”
“You got it, Boss,” Delvin answered, opening up his journal again, glad that was over with. The Boss would talk to Brynjolf, keep whatever was happening between them in check, and Delvin would have a couple jobs ready by the time she got back. He liked that she still took on work, didn’t get over confident. Yeah, she was a damn better leader than Mercer had ever been.
The Guildmaster’s cocky grin had given way to grim irritation by the time she climbed the stone steps up through the Riften Cemetery. Brynjolf had, indeed, been acting cagey. She had thought he was overdoing it, but also wasn’t sure if it was just paranoia. She also didn’t entirely agree that they needed to be so damn secretive. Brynjolf was her second, so if it got out that there was anything between them the argument could be made that she was playing favorites. The fact that he was her second before they became lovers probably wouldn’t matter to whomever made the complaint. At the same time, though, not even that harpy Vex could claim the guild wasn’t thriving under its new leadership. Whatever the Guildmaster may or may not do with Brynjolf was not influencing how the guild was run. So long as jobs and money kept flowing, as far as she was concerned, she should be able to bed whomever she damn well pleased.
At the stables, she had them ready her dappled mare and headed first north then west to the mill. They had recently bought the outlying house at the mill that used to be home to hired hands before everyone ran off to join the war. When it became pretty clear that the boys weren’t coming back, the owner had been willing enough to cut a deal. It was a pretty good one – a steady supply of gold just to keep the little house stocked and claim whomever was staying in it worked the mill. The deal also came with immunity – so long as they kept up their end of things, the Guild would take no contracts involving their family or their business.
The dappled mare got to the inn a couple hours before dawn. The Guildmaster tied her near the water trough, and headed inside the little cottage. Brynjolf was down on his knees, digging in the back of a cupboard, probably hiding supplies or tools. He looked up briefly, and the line of his shoulders grew taught.
“Sorry, lass, I have things to do,” he began, looking back into the cupboard.
“We’re alone, you idiot.”
Rising to his feet, Brynjolf turned and glared. The glare didn’t hold up, though, and then they were both moving swiftly towards each other. She pulled off her hood and he grabbed her and picked her up, her hair falling over their faces as they kissed. The Guildmaster then pulled back and punched him in the shoulder. It wasn’t just a playful tap. Brynjolf winced and grunted in pain.
“Ay, lass, what was that for,” Brynjolf asked as he set her down and rubbed his shoulder, but didn’t step away.
“I just left the Flagon, where I had to have a heart-to-heart with Delvin before he would even tell me where you were,” she explained, glaring at him as she took off her gloves. “I know we agreed not to advertise our tryst to the Guild, but you’ve been avoiding me so steadfastly that they think you’re planning a coup.”
Blinking, Brynjolf stared in silence for a minute before finding his voice. “What? No-”
“Yes,” she cut him off, setting her gloves on the table. Hands free, she reached up and touched his face. “I’ve kept this secret for you. I understand why you feel it’s important. But so help me, if Delvin pulls me aside again I will carve the truth into the bar. I will not be undermined, even accidentally. I will not have anyone thinking I can be displaced. I will not be made a target because not everyone likes that the young upstart became guild leader, and you’ve given them reason to think I might have a replacement waiting in the wings.”
“Lass,” Brynjolf began, then sighed. He grasped the hand on his cheek and brought it to his lips, kissing her fingertips, then her palm. “Love, I’m sorry. I’ve never- I feared I would give us away. I didn’t realize people would think-”
She shifted her hand, and pressed her fingertips against his lips again, cutting him off. “The damage is done. We just need to make sure it doesn’t get worse,” her expression softened then, and she smiled, and gave his beard a short tug. “Just try to keep it together, old man.”
Laughing, Brynjolf caught her hand again, and kissed it. “I’ll do what I can, love,” he said, then glanced over at the bed on the far side of the cabin. “So, as you said, we’re alone. Care to spend a little time with me before you head back?”
Smirking, she leaned back and arched an eyebrow at him. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to, but she still wasn’t quite over her irritation. After all, she’d had to ride out here in the middle of the night, hours away from her much larger, more comfortable bed in Riften. Still smirking, she took her hand away and then took a step back.
“Sorry, old man, I have things to do,” she said, and Brynjolf sighed and smiled wearily in the face of defeat. “We’ll speak another time.”